Russia’s revolutionary names live on 100 years later

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Moscow (AFP) – From Central Asia to Latin America, people continue to bear the revolutionary names that caught on in the wake of Russia’s 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

Revolda (Child of the Revolution), Mels (short for Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin), Engels and Stalina are just some of the names that live on a century later.

– ‘My childhood, my youth’ –

“My father always remained loyal to Marxist-Leninist ideals. This is why he named me Mels,” says 67-year-old Mels Yeleussizov, president of a Kazakh ecology society.

In neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, 28-year-old culture ministry spokesman Marlen Solyanoy also bears a name that combines Lenin with Marx.

“For me, it’s not about liking or not liking your name: my parents chose it and it needs to be respected,” he said.

Armenia’s well known composer Vladilen Balyan, whose name is an abbreviation of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, has a similar opinion about his parents’ choice.

“I have never thought about giving up my name,” the 93-year-old tells AFP. “It’s my childhood, my youth, my life!”

– ‘Worse names than mine’ –

In Albania, AFP meets the 66-year-old director of Tirana’s Academy of Albania Studies, Marenglen Verli — whose first name combines Marx, Engels and Lenin.

“The name Marenglen was very popular in the 1950s (in Albania),” Verli says.

“I have never thought about changing it. During the revolutionary era, there were worse ones than mine.”

He cites the name ‘Melset’, short for Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Enver (after Albania’s communist leader Enver Hoxha) and Tito (Yugoslavia’s leader).

After the fall of communism in Tirana in the early 1990s, some Albanians changed their revolutionary names: Lenin became Luli and Marenglen became Maringlen to sound more Albanian.

– A chance tribute –

Ninel Omelyanenko, a 26-year-old living in Kiev, said she bears a revolutionary name (Lenin spelt backwards) by chance rather than for ideological reasons.

“My father always hated the Soviet system but our neighbour was a convinced communist,” she says.

One day, the neighbour had asked her father what name had given his newborn daughter. He answered: “Ninel.”

“Finally, there is someone in your family who honours the memory of the great leader!” the neighbour replied.

But for her family, “Ninel” was simply the combination of “Nina” and “Nelia,” the names of the girl’s two grandmothers.

“My father was angry at my mother who chose this name completely innocently,” she says.

In Moscow, the parents of 18-year-old student Vilen Martirossyan chose their son’s name (an abbreviation of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin) consciously, in honour of his grandfather.

“Young people my age don’t usually react when they hear my name,” said Vilen, who was born eight years after the fall of the USSR. “But people in their seventies say straight away: Ah, Vladimir Ilyich!”

– Many Lenins –

Since the 1930s, many Latin American leftist activists named their children in honour of the Russian revolutionary leaders.

That is the case with Ecuador’s current socialist president Lenin Moreno, the famous Venezuelan terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez known as Carlos the Jackal, or the Brazilian musician Lenine, whose full name is Osvaldo Lenine Macedo Pimentel.

“For my father, the most important fact was that Lenin was a brilliant person,” Mexican university professor Lenin Martell, 46, tells AFP. “This name opened many doors for me.”

For others, the name caused more harm than good.

Sergio Lenin Ocampo Torres, a 36 year-old Mexican photographer, says he experienced “only problems” with his name.

“This name was badly seen in the private schools that I went to and I was often demonised.”

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